‘A tragedy waiting to happen’
Witnessing a near-fatality was the final straw for Dwight Yeager, a resident of the Millville By the Sea community. He watched a cyclist and a huge construction truck unknowingly approach each other at a blind spot on Huntington Street. Although they avoided collision, Yeager said it’s indicative of what could happen if trucks continue using the residential roads instead of specified construction roads.
An extension to the Sand Dollar Village neighborhood was built in phases, but residents say the back entrance for construction vehicles is being ignored, and the large traffic volume is creating a safety hazard.
After 27 years of New Jersey law enforcement and traffic operations, Yeager created his own traffic study. From his own porch, he watched traffic each morning for 30 days. Between 7 and 8 a.m., Yeager said, an average of 18 construction vehicles arrived, with only two using the back entrance.
He measured a 100-foot section of Huntington Street and used a stopwatch to clock the vehicles’ time. Yeager said some the trucks averaged 34 mph, with one truck hitting 47 mph.
“That road is not designed for those speeds, nor is it intended for that,” Yeager said.
“We understand before they got everything connected, there would be some construction trucks,” said resident Sally Griffin.
But “when the last home took occupancy in Phase I … construction vehicles stuck out like a sore thumb” because they never switched to the service road, Yeager said.
When he visited the construction office of homebuilder Christopher Companies, Yeager said the on-site construction representative said, “Well, I guess you could say we got used to it … got lazy.”
Yeager has also picked up construction debris from his yard and cigarettes that he’s seen drivers throw out the window. He has lived in Millville By the Sea for one year.
Huntington resident Paul DuCott said he has approached construction managers a “ridiculous amount of times” and heard that trucks can carry nearly 40 tons of material, which will not stop quickly in a collision.
“There is a tragedy waiting to happen,” Yeager said. “I can pick up cigarette butts. I can pick up debris. I don’t want to pick up a body.”
The Millville Planning & Zoning Commission approved the preliminary site plan for the community in June of 2012, with the condition that a construction entrance would be used. The residents had also requested a construction entrance, which Miller & Smith’s Chuck Ellison said had been requested from Sussex County.
According to town council meeting minutes, the final site plan was approved in February of 2013, stating, “Ellison stated Miller & Smith would be bringing traffic in behind the existing homes, allowing Miller & Smith to construct most of the new homes and minimize the impact of construction traffic to existing residents. … Ellison stated condition No. 1 had been fulfilled.”
Despite hearing promises that the situation would be resolved, this week DuCott called the response mere “lip-service. We’ve gotten no response.”
When Griffin logged the date and time of each truck passing, Miller & Smith asked her to write the truck identification numbers, too. She said she couldn’t copy a seven-digit number from a truck passing at 30 mph.
Millville By the Sea builders and developers were not at the Tuesday-night meeting to respond.
Mayor Gerald “Gerry” Hocker Jr. thanked the citizens for providing detailed notes. Between the Town’s “good relationship” with the developer and a skilled code enforcer, Hocker said, Town Hall can follow-up on the situation.
“I’ve seen injuries and deaths. I don’t want to see any more. That’s why I retired and moved here,” Yeager said.